Fujifilm Finepix S2 Pro - My First DSLR
Announced in January of 2002 for an August release, the Fujifilm S2 Pro's availability trailed the other two small six megapixels DSLRs of the time (the Nikon D100 and Canon D60) by almost half a year. After receiving some negative reviews regarding its unnecessary pixel doubling, quirky battery and controls (due to being a modified film camera) its list price started to slip. That brought the S2 Pro's cost in to my range and it became my first DSLR in November of 2002.
Fujifilm S2 Pro & Red Squirrel: Sony A9 + Sigma DG DN 85mm f/1.4 Art
2fps / 7 shots
30s - 1/4,000th
100 - 1,600
0.8x / 95%
1.8" / 117k / Fixed
CF & Smart Media
~600 (4x AA)
Firstly, I need to address the squirrel theme... Ever since I have been shooting digital cameras, for some reason I have been drawn to photographing squirrels. The Grey one below was taken in my first couple of weeks with the camera (Leamington Spa, UK). It's not quite in focus, but considering I couldn't see through the viewfinder to focus or compose (and it's not cropped) it's not too bad. Plus I wasn't prepared to lay down in the cold, wet winter leaves.
I'm quite happy with how this came out, especially considering its taken with one of the worst lenses I've ever used! When the photo was published in the Digital Camera magazine I was very proud. Since moving to Sweden two decades later, becoming obsessed with red squirrels and buying the camera again, I couldn't resist trying to get the above photo to complete the circle.
Sigma 17-35mm f/2.8-4: @17mm, 1/350th, f2.8, iso 200
After being disappointed with the controls and image quality of my first digital camera in 2001 (Fujifilm 6900z), I started looking into DSLRs. Prices were still out of my range that year, but by 2002 they had dropped significantly and megapixels had doubled. I decided to stick with Fuji as their S2 Pro model had some interesting features. I remember being really happy with the upgrade at the time, but more than two decades on I wanted to try it out again to see how it copes with image quality and shooting experience...
I remember liking the taller shape of the Fuji S2 because it reminded me of a professional Nikon camera. Ultimately this was one of the main reasons I chose the S2 Pro over the Nikon D100, but when you see the Fuji side by side with a Nikon D1 you realize that professional DSLRs are in a very different league (below). One nice aspect from this taller shape is that Fuji managed to keep their second LCD screen on the back of the camera. This makes it much faster to change many settings compared to the Nikon D100, although the Fuji unfortunately still has the ISO control on the mode dial
Fujifilm S2 Pro vs Nikon D1
A lot about the Fuji S2 Pro was unchanged from the Nikon F80 film camera. This covers a lot of aspects, like: The shutter, front/back control dials, compensation buttons, AF assist lamp, flash, top LCD, LCD light, metering dial, AE-L button, Flash button, Lens release button, AF switch, viewfinder, command and sub-command dials are all identical, even down to the exact labelling. The weight of the camera was about 70% more than the film camera due to its extra height housing four extra AA batteries (more about that later). Although the grip is a bit more contoured for the thumb than the Nikon F80 (or even the Nikon D100), Fuji unfortunately decided to replace the rubber grips with smooth plastic (accept the red stripe) and this was a big mistake.
Since the S2 Pro is literally using the Nikon F80's viewfinder it suffers all the same disappointments of the Nikon D100. It's not a terrible viewfinder, it's just not an impressive one either, but for people like me coming from compact digital cameras everything about this camera was a massive improvement over those consumer toys. Physically looking through the lens via a prism and mirror did a fantastic job at hiding the slow digital technology of the era, even if it was a 1.5x crop of the middle of the frame.
Like the S1 Pro before, the S2 Pro uses two different kinds of batteries. Two CR123a batteries for the film section (same as the Nikon F80) and four AA batteries at the bottom for the digital secton. 21 years ago this was probably seen as a positive thing due to the relatively common batteries being pretty cheap compared to proprietary rechargeable options. Plus you could replace them in any corner store. Today these 6 batteries can cost a lot compared to the second hand price of the camera itself. Rechargeable batteries from other DSLRs (say the Nikon D100), are usually still working well enough today for you to happily keep playing with them.
Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8 AF-D: 1/125th, f4.8, iso 100
Like my previous camera, the Fujifilm S2 Pro used the now infamous Super-CCD sensor, doubling the effective megapixels to apparently achieve a little extra sharpness. Although everyone soon realized this was just a BS marketing tactic to sell more cameras, I was much happier with the image quality here than on the compact 6900z. However, this was due to the larger sensor and ability to shoot RAW, rather than any obvious benefit from the super-CCD. It is not possible to justify the larger file size over the Nikon D100.
The dynamic range of the sensor was perhaps just as noticeable an increase over the Fujifilm 6900z as the pixel quality was and again this was largely enabled by the much larger sensor and ability to shoot RAW files. Being able to adjust exposure and white balance in post was such a game-changer for me that I didn't go back to using JPGs after I made the switch, I just wish I had known the benefits of RAW when I actually got the camera, but unfortunately most of my early images were JPG.
The ISO of the S2 Pro having a base value of 100 also helped to provide cleaner images, as well as giving you more latitude to shoot faster lenses without them blowing out in strong lighting.
Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 AF-D Macro: 1/250th, f13, iso 200
The burst speed of the S2 Pro was a rather disappointing TWO frame per second (fps)!! That is pretty awful considering the Nikon D100 ad Canon D60 could both shoot three fps. Now I know the Fuji had to push more pointless megapixels to the buffer per second, but what's interesting about the Fuji is how many images it could shoot simultaneously. Seven frames, that's more than double what the Nikon could do and almost matched the Canon. Since we now know there was little point in this camera being 12 megapixels it's clear that the Canon won this round easily, but the Fuji's buffer depth is actually interesting considering what it had to do.
The shutter speeds and auto focus performance of this Fujifilm S2 Pro, Nikon F80 and D100, are all similar. As mentioned before since the Fuji is pretty much just an F80 the shutter mechanism of those two is literally the same. This shows in their 1/125th flash sync. Like its body, the Nikon D100's shutter has been tweaked a bit and this shows on paper with its faster 1/180th flash sync. You can hear this difference when they fire next to each other as well, the D100 fees a little less soft. I wouldn't call is snappy by any stretch of the imagination, but it does sound a bit nicer.
Nikon Lens Mount
No Rubber Grip
Poor ISO control
I remember paying £1550 for the Fuji S2 Pro a couple months after it was released. This was a bit of a bargain, but it was a lot of money for me to spend at the time. I was a little nervous as the place I was getting it from was unknown to me at the time (don't ever do that). Fortunately I was not ripped off and I quickly grew to love camera for its image quality and control improvements.
The battery situation was not as annoying as it sounds, especially back in 2002. The camera was a little bulky for it and didn't even feature a vertical grip, but it was a nice camera to use non the less. I remember the 12 megapixel files being a bit of a pain to deal with back then, but oddly they are automatically reduced to 6mp when you put them through Adobe Camera RAW today. Clearly someone looked at them and laughed "Yeah there is no point upscaling those".
Would I have been better off with a Nikon D100? Probably yes, but I enjoyed using the S2 Pro for a little over two years. Although i started with a really crappy sigma zoom lens (17-35mm). I ended getting a few nice Nikon lenses (see labels under each photo in the review) and this encouraged me to switch to Nikon for my next camera.
Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 AF-D: 1/90th, f/4.8, iso 100
Here are some more images that I took back when I had the camera first...